Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XIV.—Of the priesthood of Jesus foretold by the prophets
Chap. XIV.—Of the Priesthood of Jesus Foretold by the Prophets.
From which things it is evident that all the prophets declared concerning Christ, that it should come to pass at some time, that being born with a body 641 of the race of David, He should build an eternal temple in honour of God, which is called the Church, and assemble all nations to the true worship of God. This is the faithful house, this is the everlasting temple; and if any one hath not sacrificed in this, he will not have the reward of immortality. And since Christ was the builder of this great and eternal temple, He must also have an everlasting priesthood in it; and there can be no approach to the shrine of the temple, and to the sight of God, except through Him who built the temple. David in the cixth Psalm teaches the same, saying: 642 “Before the morning-star I begat Thee. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.” Also in the first book of Kings: 643 “And I will raise me up a faithful Priest, who shall do all things that are in mine heart; and I will build him a sure 644 house; and he shall walk in my sight 645 all his days.” But who this was about to be, to whom God promised an everlasting priesthood, Zechariah most plainly teaches, even mentioning His name: 646 “And the Lord God showed p. 114 me Jesus 647 the great Priest standing before the face of the angel of the Lord, and the adversary 648 was standing at His right hand to resist Him. And the Lord said unto the adversary, The Lord who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; and lo, a brand plucked out of the fire. And Jesus was clothed with filthy garments, and He was standing before the face of the angel. And He answered and spake unto those that stood around before His face, saying, Take away the filthy garments from Him, and clothe Him with a flowing 649 garment, and place a fair mitre 650 upon His head; and they clothed Him with a garment, and placed a fair mitre upon His head. And the angel of the Lord stood, and protested, saying to Jesus: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, If Thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my precepts, Thou shalt judge my house, and I will give Thee those that may walk with Thee in the midst of these that stand by. Hear, therefore, O Jesus, Thou great Priest.”
Who, therefore, would not believe that the Jews were then deprived of understanding, who, when they read and heard these things, laid impious hands upon their God? But from the time in which Zechariah lived, until the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, in which Christ was crucified, nearly five hundred years are reckoned; since he flourished in the time of Darius and Alexander, 651 who lived not long after the banishment of Tarquinius Superbus. But they were again misled and deceived in the same manner, in supposing that these things were spoken concerning Jesus 652 the son of Nave, who was the successor of Moses, or concerning Jesus the high priest the son of Josedech; to whom none of those things which the prophet related was suited. For they were never clothed in filthy garments, since one of them was a most powerful prince, and the other high priest; or suffered any adversity, so that they should be regarded as a brand plucked from the fire: not did they ever stand in the presence of God and the angels; nor did the prophet speak of the past so much as of the future. He spoke, therefore, of Jesus the Son of God, to show that He would first come in humility and in the flesh. For this is the filthy garment, that He might prepare a temple for God, and might be scorched 653 as a brand with fire—that is, might endure tortures from men, and at last be extinguished. For a half-burnt brand drawn forth from the hearth and extinguished, is commonly so called. 654 But in what manner and with what commands He was sent by God to the earth, the Spirit of God declared through the prophet, teaching us that when He had faithfully and uniformly fulfilled the will of His supreme Father, He should receive judgment 655 and an everlasting dominion. If, He says, Thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my precepts, then Thou shalt judge my house. What these ways of God were, and what His precepts, is neither doubtful nor obscure. For God, when He saw that wickedness and the worship of false gods had so prevailed throughout the world, that His name had now also been taken away from the memory of men (since even the Jews, who alone had been entrusted with the secret of God, had deserted the living God, and, ensnared by the deceits of demons, had gone astray, and turned aside to the worship of images, and when rebuked by the prophets did not choose to return to God), He sent His Son 656 as an ambassador to men, that He might turn them from their impious and vain worship to the knowledge and worship of the true God; and also that He might turn their minds from foolishness to wisdom, and from wickedness to deeds of righteousness. These are the ways of God, in which He enjoined Him to walk. These are the precepts which He ordered to be observed. But He exhibited faith towards God. For He taught that there is but one God, and that He alone ought to be worshipped. Nor did He at any time say that He Himself was God; for He would not have maintained His faithfulness, if, when sent to abolish the false gods, and to assert the existence of the one God, He had introduced another besides that one. This would have been not to proclaim one God, nor to do the work of Him who sent Him, but to discharge a peculiar office for Himself, and to separate Himself from Him whom He came to reveal. On which account, because He was so faithful, because He arrogated nothing at all to Himself, that He might fulfil the commands of Him who sent Him, He received the dignity of everlasting Priest, and the honour of supreme King, and the authority of Judge, and the name of God.
Ps. 10:3, 4, quoted from the Septuagint. With reference to this priesthood, see Heb. v.113:643
1 Sam. ii. 35.113:644
Fidelem, i.e.; firm and stedfast.113:645
In conspectu meo. The Septuagint, ἐνώπιον χριστου̑ μου; and so the English authorized version, “before my anointed.”113:646
Zech. iii. 1-8.114:647
The authorized version reads Joshua, which has the same meaning with Jesus. See Heb. iv. 8. [Compare Justin, vol. i. note 4, p. 227.]114:648
Diabolus, i.e., the calumniator. To stand on the right hand is to accuse with authority. See Ps. cix. 6.114:649
Tunica talaris, a garment reaching to the ankles; in Greek, ποδήρης.114:650
Cidarim; an Eastern word denoting a head-dress worn by the Persian kings, or, as in this passage, the mitre of the Jewish high priest.114:651
Not the Great, but the tenth, a much earlier king of Macedon.114:652
i.e., Joshua the son of Nun, as he is generally called. [Justin, vol. i. pp. 174, 266.]114:653
Ambureretur. The word is applied to anything which is partly burned, burnt around, scorched. Hence Cicero jestingly speaks of Munatius Plancus, at whose instigation the people set fire to the senate-house, as tribunus ambustus. Cic., pro Milone114:654
i.e., the word titio, “a firebrand,” is thus used.114:655
i.e., authority to judge. [Ps. lxxii. 1 and John v. 22.]114:656
After these words some editions, “principem angelorum,” the chief of angels.
Next: Chap. XV.—Of the life and miracles of Jesus, and testimonies concerning them
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